Wednesday 31 October 2012

No. 171. Perth Post And Go, Serious Mozambique Philately And Other New Issues.

I have now received my examples of the "Perth 2012" "Post And Go" stamps which were sold for 3 days only from Hytech machines at the 94th Philatelic Congress Of Great Britain, held in the city of Perth in Scotland from 19 to 21 October. I have already discussed these in the blog of 10 October 2012 and so I will not repeat my complaints about these stamps. They obviously had extremely limited availability and were not available to the general public for use on ordinary mail and in producing them Royal Mail has placed itself in the same catagory of stamp producers as the agency which produces stamps for The Cook Islands (see blog no. 170). This will be the last of such issues that I add to my collection as it is quite obvious that Royal Mail believe that they have found a new way of bleeding collectors of their money whilst cynically claiming to have reduced their annual number of stamp issues by cutting back a little bit on the total number of normal commemorative sets issued per year. This is another golden goose they have slaughtered by displaying unsubtle greediness. They have already announced that this year's Christmas issues will be accompanied by Post And Go Christmas stamps but they at least will be available to the ordinary public from machines in normal post offices and will even probably be quite popular, so I will add those to my collection as an illustration of a further episode in the story of British stamps.

In the face of the activities of Stamperija, it is still possible to collect the stamps of Mozambique since the country joined The Commonwealth because of the fascinating locally surcharged stamps which were released from 1998 onwards to supply new values for genuine postal use. These stamps, as previously discussed in a number of my blogs, offer a true philatelic challenge to the interested collector and Stanley Gibbons has not yet been able to publish a comprehensive list of them in its catalogue. I have recently obtained another example of these stamps - 

This stamp, the 4000 MT value of the 1998 traditional buildings set, is not surcharged but overprinted in black with a single six-pointed star and "2000" and is mentioned in a list of stamps with this overprint in a note in Gibbons' most recent catalogue of the stamps of South and Central Africa. The note mentions 7 other similarly overprinted stamps including the 6000, 10000 and 15000 MT values of the same set. Up to now, though, I have not personally seen any of the other stamps. 

Cayman Islands has released a new set of 12 definitives which depict marine life and which are also rather expensive to buy as a set, the total face value being approximately £38.54 because the set includes $10 and $20 values, the latter therefore being about £12.30 face value. Why Cayman Islands needs to issue such a high face valued stamp is not clear and the stamp itself is not of any special design nature - merely a photograph with some lettering and the Queen's head added to it. Every time a stamp collector buys the stamp, the Cayman Islands Post Office will be laughing all the way to the bank. Otherwise, two reasonable sets from CASCO countries - 4 stamps depicting scenes of the port of Bridgetown from Barbados and 4 stamps from Bermuda which commemorate St. Peter's Church on the island. So typical now of the lazy designs produced by CASCO, again they are nothing more than photographs with lettering applied by a computer (how hard is that?) but at least the sets do not include $20 values.

Barbados Port of Bridgetown issue.

Bermuda St. Peter's Church issue.

Sunday 28 October 2012

No. 170. Only 100 Sheets Of Special Stamp Issue Actually Sold In Cook Islands Post Offices.

A website entitled "Cook Islands News" which is dated 23 August 2012, stated in a report on the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum that just 100 sheets of the special stamps issued to commemorate the event (see blog of 22 September 2012) "were the Cook Islands Post Office" by the Cook Islands Philatelic Bureau based in New York and owned by Philatelic Collectors Inc. The website says that these 100 sheets actually comprised 50 each of the 2 different sheets, one of which comprised 16 different stamps which depicted the flags of participating nations and territories and the other depicted a further 14 flags of "dialogue partners". Hence, if this report is correct, only 1500 stamps of this particular issue were put on sale at post offices and with 30 different designs, only 50 of each design was sold with the aim of them being used by members of The Cook Islands mail-sending public for use on their mail. Additionally, the Cook Islands Philatelic Bureau used 300 sheets, 150 of each type, as part of gifts to governmental leaders who attended the Forum. This report is very illuminating about the activities of this particular philatelic agency, the fact that the Cook Islands Post Office only received 50 examples of each sheetlet for sale at ordinary post office counters raises questions about the nature of the "stamps" as items which qualify to be called postage stamps and to find their way to be fully listed in stamp catalogues. This report has convinced me that I will not spend any more money on items with the name of Cook Islands printed on them which have been produced by this philatelic agency since they appear to have limited availability for actual use as postage stamps. Anyone who comes across a genuinely used example of these stamps, particularly if on cover, appears to have a notable rarity in their possession.

Thursday 25 October 2012

No. 169. Philatelic Exhibition Special Issues.

I have recently obtained some items which were issued a year or two ago of which I was not previously aware. In my blog of 1 October 2012 I illustrated some personalisable stamps which had been issued for the Indipex 2011 International Philatelic Exhibition and I now depict 2 more sets that have come my way. Again, each stamp has the inscription "Indipex 2011" and a  label attached for personalisation. The 2 sets depict aircraft and railway engines:-

Going further back to 2012, I have also just obtained a set of 5 miniature sheets issued by the Sri Lankan Post Office which comprised of previous issues overprinted "National Stamp Fair Colombo - 2010", each having a different day of issue inscribed on it:-

As shown above, the Day 1 issue (20-11-2010) was the miniature sheet originally issued on 2 December 1982 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the 1st postage stamps of Ceylon with a surcharge applied so that the original Rs5 sale price was increased to Rs350. The Day 2 issue (21-11-2010) was the lighthouses miniature sheet which was originally issued on 22 January 1996 with the original sale price of Rs23.25 increased to Rs500. Day 3 (22-11-2012) saw the reissue of the "Ancient Flags of Sri Lanka" miniature sheet which was originally sold on 18 December 1980 for Rs21.95 but now revalued to Rs600.

The remaining issues were:- Day 4 23-11-2012, Birds of Sri Lanka miniature sheet of 1 December 1983 revalued from Rs22.60 to Rs650 and Day 5 24-11-2012, Flowers of Sri Lanka originally issued on 1 April 1982 and revalued from Rs29.35 to Rs750.
 Cyprus made a pleasing issue of a booklet of 5 self-adhesive stamps on 3 October 2012 which was the second in its series of issues which feature stories from the fables written by Aesop. This year's design depicts scenes from the story of the cricket and the ant which I do not actually know and unfortunately I remain ignorant about because the text on the booklet is inscribed entirely in Greek which I do not read.  The first part of the series was issued on 5 October 2011 in a similar format and style. 

One of the more remarkable recent items is the miniature sheet or sheetlet (I'm not sure which is the most appropriate term) which was released by Malaysia on 16 July 2012 which is part of the 2nd series of Malaysian currency stamps. This sheetlet features three banknotes on perforated stamps on backgrounds which themselves can be separated from the rest of the sheetlet because they are surrounded by rouletting, thus I suppose you really have a sheetlet containing 3 miniature sheets each containing 1 stamp!

1 of the miniature sheets from the sheetlet

Finally, staying in south-east Asia, I depict the single $50 stamp from the miniature issued by Brunei Darussalam in 2011 to commemorate the golden jubilee of the country's armed forces which I previously mentioned in the blog of 21 October 2012.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

When Does A Stamp Have National Relevance?

In 1985, in the face of attack from numerous Walt Disney Stamps being produced by a large New York-based philatelic agency for between 10 and 20 different Commonwealth countries as well as the now notorious "Leaders Of The World" series, I decided it really was time to cut back on my new issue buying and resolved to buy only stamps which had a relevance in subject matter to the country whose name appeared on the stamps in question. It was not just the cost of the stamps that made me reach this decision but also the fact that lots of stamps featuring cartoon characters or foreign railways told me nothing about the interesting countries in whose name they were produced and that is one of the things I enjoy about stamp collecting - discovering something new about a far distant, or even a nearby, place. The result of all this was that I divorced myself from stamp catalogues - I was no longer obsessionally following what some catalogue editor was telling me I should include in my collection and I experienced a joyous feeling of liberation as a result. The modern stamp catalogues are ridiculous when they add hundreds, or even thousands, of new "stamps"per year which quite obviously have no relevance to whichever impoverished little territory they are supposed to be produced for and which will never see any reasonable amount of genuine postal usage in or from those countries. But one problem arises - how do we know which stamp designs are actually relevant to the country whose name appears on the stamps? Only today, I discovered an item for sale on the internet which, when it was issued some years ago, I immediately dismissed because the subject seemed to have no direct relevance to the country which was issuing it. However, by looking at the design in detail today, I find it to be surprisingly relevant to the issuing country and have reconsidered my opinion about it. The issue in question is the miniature sheet released by Ghana on 29 November 2004 which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II. To the best of my knowledge, Roman Catholicism is not the leading religion of Ghana and it is questionable that Ghana should issue such a commemorative.

However, the designs interestingly highlight the Pope's visits to west Africa and one depicts him in Sierra Leone in 1980 and another illustrates the papal visit to Ghana itself in 1982. The stamp designs themselves therefore bring a note of local relevance to the issue and highlight an important occasion in Ghana's modern history and therefore satisfy me that it is worthwhile obtaining this interesting issue. The same pope features on another production by Stamperija which is a said to have been released by Mozambique on 30 June 2012 when a total of 60 stamps and 10 miniature sheets were added to this year's items issued in that country's name (complete total for the year so far is now being 298 stamps and 50 miniature sheets!). This latest emission is entitled "anniversaries" and 6 stamps and 1 miniature sheet have been produced for 10 different subjects (20th anniversary of the Catholic cathechism, centenary of the loss of The Titanic, birth centenary of Dean Arthur Anadon (an ornithologist), Russian composers, 150th anniversary of Achille-Claude Debussy, Charles Darwin (dinosaurs and meteorites), Alexander Pushkin, the Airbus A380, volcanologists and volcanoes, 150th anniversary of Wilbur Wright (aviator). Presumably, as a former Portuguese colony, Mozambique has a big Catholic heritage, so one may consider some relevance of the papal issue for the country but even if I were convinced that this issue had been made widely available at ordinary postal counters in Mozambique post offices I would not include it in my collection because of the plainly excessive numbers of stamps being produced in that country's name.

And even if the papal issue has some relevance to Mozambique, you would have a hard time convincing me that the Titanic centenary had anything to do with that country. I don't suppose that there are many icebergs floating off the coast of Mozambique! :-

Sunday 21 October 2012

Jersey New Issues And Another Brunei High Face Value Issue.

Having spent most of the year complaining about the excessively expensive new issues of Jersey, I am forced to admit that I like very much its final sets of the year. The Christmas stamps are released on 15 November 2012 and, rather unimaginatively, depict 8 scenes from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", but they are interesting and enjoyable designs and the 40p in particular is rather joyous with the altered Scrooge dancing in the streets on a snowy Christmas morning (though perhaps it does look a little like the scene from a film musical  rather than something straight out of Dickens).

It does not really seem reasonable for Jersey to need to issue 8 different stamps for Christmas so that the price of a complete set is more than £5 although I suppose I can feel a little like the reconstructed Scrooge by making a donation to a cash-strapped post office, though I think there are better causes in need of a donation than Jersey Post.  

The set is very spooky and depicts not just Marley's Ghost but the Ghost of Christmas Past:-

and the one that really frightened me when I was a child, the Ghost Of Christmas Future (what was under the hood?):-

Another rather spooky set will be issued by Jersey on 2 November 2012 when the third set in their archaeology series will appear. The subject of the 5 stamps will be dolmens, prehistoric standing stones in Jersey, and, like the Christmas set, the stamps are not accompanied by a miniature sheet so costs are kept down a little at least.

A set of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet was issued on 16 September 2012 to commemorate the gorilla, Jambo, who saved a child's life when it fell into Jambo's enclosure at Jersey Zoo. The gorilla is undoubtedly more worthy of philatelic commemoration than a good many humans who manage to find their way on to a stamp design nowadays.

Brunei has continued to to issue extremely highly face valued miniature sheets, the latest to appear on the market is one with a $50 value which was issued in 2011 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Brunei's armed forces. What a relief that Royal mail has not taken notice of matching face value to anniversary, otherwise we may have had a £200 stamp to commemorate the Dickens bicentenary. Come to think of it, I had better check that Jersey has not done so given its record of producing extraordinarily highly face valued items for Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee.

As Brunei is one of the richest countries in the world, surely its post office does not need to keep producing such items which are a great strain to collectors. Meanwhile, Ireland has issued a single stamp to commemorate the childrens' charity, Barnardos, and this is just what more stamp issues should be about - commemoration of  a worthy cause or person with a well-designed and meaningful stamp with a reasonable face value:-

Again, another very acceptable and reasonable issue from The Cayman Islands, has recently appeared, comprising 6 gummed and 2 self-adhesive stamps which commemorate the territory's emergency services:-

Saturday 20 October 2012

Pobjoy Mint - Currently The Best Philatelic Agency?

Pobjoy Mint Stamps have recently started their stamp website and very welcome it is too as it contains details of all current forthcoming stamp issues of its increasing number of client territories. It reveals just what an excellent agency it is compared with almost every philatelic agency around and shows just how excellent most of its stamp designs are, how most of them are relevant to the territory whose name is printed on the stamps and generally how reasonable the face values are. One wishes that a few more Commonwealth territories would choose to be represented by them.
The first of their territories to mention is Ascension which will issue a wonderful set of 4 stamps to commemorate the birth bicentenary of Charles Dickens and to provide a Christmas issue, depicting, as they do, original art of scenes from "A Christmas Carol". The subject may be rather cliched but the designs by Gyula Vasarhelyi (once a prolific designer but now his designs appear much less often on stamps) are novel and enjoyable. The stamps are lithographed by Cartor.

On 5 December 2012, Ascension will also issue a miniature sheet of 4 different stamps to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Wideawake Airport on the island which played an important role in the British campaign to liberate The Falkland Islands from occupation by Argentine military forces in 1982. This item is designed by Robin Carter and again lithographed by Cartor.

Bahamas. which Pobjoy Mint has taken over in the past year or so from CASCO, is planning to issue 6 attractive stamps on 1 November 2012 for use on Christmas mail. The designs by Andrew Robinson depict the Christmas story in the form of stained-glass window style illustrations. These are lithographed by BDT International. This set follows on from the previously illustrated set of 6 stamps which was issued on 10 October 2012 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage in Bahamas and which had the same designer and printer.

The Falkland Islands Post Office has used Pobjoy Mint for some years now and its next issue on  19 November 2012 will be a set of 12 stamps to provide a new definitive series. The set is designed by Tony Chater and depicts whales and dolphins, presumably of local waters. The set is lithographed by BDT International.

The two most recent territories to give up on CASCO and move to Pobjoy Mint are British Virgin Islands (of which there is no news yet of stamp issues to be released although I presume the territory will want a Diamond Jubilee set to be produced in good time) and Tristan Da Cunha. The latter will issue an excellent set of 4 stamps on 28 November 2012 which is designed by Andrew Robinson and lithographed by BDT International to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Shackleton-Rowett expedition. Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the south polar region was funded by the trader, John Rowett, hence the name of the expedition, and the expedition ship, The Quest, arrived at South Georgia on 4 January 1922. In the early hours of 5 January, Shackleton experienced chest pains and in reply to the expedition physician telling him to take things more easily Shackleton said, "You're always wanting me to give something up. What do you want me to give up now?". These were his last words as he subsequently collapsed and died from a heart attack. He was then aged 48. Lady Shackleton, his widow, requested that his body be buried at South Georgia and he was interred in the old whalers' graveyard at Grytviken. Frank Wild then took command of the expedition and after sailing through the Weddell Sea returned to South Georgia where a cairn was erected to Shackleton's memory.  Thence, they sailed to Tristan da Cunha, where the expedition members met with the islanders and took depth soundings and then travelled on to South Africa where they were entertained by Jan Smuts, the prime minister. On the return to Britain the expedition visited St. Helena, Ascension Island and St. Vincent before arriving at Plymouth on 16 September 1922. This is an issue, therefore, which has notable relevance to Tristan Da Cunha.

Meanwhile, South Georgia And The South Sandwich Islands is due to issue 2 sets of stamps. An issue of 6 stamps noting the Marine Protected Area will be released on 9 November 2012:-

The set was designed by a newcomer to stamp design, Leigh-Anne Wolfaardt, and lithographed by BDT International. A second issue will appear on 11 December 2012 on the theme of mountains. These 6 stamps will depict mountains of the territory and the explorers the mountains were named after. These stamps were designed by Andrew Robinson and lithographed by BDT International:-

Papua New Guinea continues to issue extremely interesting stamps with local themes although the New York-based philatelic agency which handles PNG issues unfortunately seems to be allowed to release additional sets with little or no local relevance to the country and this goes a long way to ruining PNG's philatelic reputation. I have said before that I do not bother with these additional irrelevant issues but enjoy obtaining the local designs (though they are rather more expensive than they ought to be). The latest release of 4 stamps and 2 miniature sheets on 5 September 2012 is on the theme of traditional cloths of Papua New Guinea and they show interesting illustrations:-

Friday 19 October 2012

Canada Picture Post Stamps And More South Sudan Stamps Advertised On E Bay.

An area of interest in which I have not previously dabbled, is the personalisable "Picture Post" stamps of Canada Post. My attention to this area of modern Commonwealth stamps was attracted by the appearance of a "Picture Post Collector's Pack" among the latest of new issues to appear from Canada Post. The item in question will be released on 5 November 2012 and "includes 12 thematic designs"and, states Canada Post, this is "a rare opportunity to buy the entire redesigned 2012 Picture Post stamp series". 

The collector's pack (shown above) contains 12 new designs which include "holiday, celebration, special event and seasonal motifs as well as two simple and contemporary designs...suited to business mail". The 12 stamps in the pack comprise blank die-cut stamps from the PERMANENT domestic rates sheets of 50, each design featuring a different frame to which can be added the individual picture to personalise the stamp. The designs are by Stephanie Hunt. The problem with  the pack appears to be that it does not represent all the stamps included in this issue since there are 4 denominations (PERMANENT, domestic, US international and oversized mail), each issued in 3 formats:- sheet of 25 plus 1 stamps, sheet of 50 stamps and a booklet of 12 stamps. This seems like something of a nightmare for the completist so I think I will be satisfied with the representative examples easily obtained by buying the collector's pack which is not terribly expensive at $7.32. The website of brc stamps gives a detailed history of Canada's Picture Post stamps. They were first introduced by Canada Post as the world's first personalised postage stamps, on 28 April 2000. The first issue consisted of a stamp frame and a personalised sticker (this being taken from artwork or photography supplied by the customer  who sent the design to Ashton Potter, the printers).  The items were supplied as 2 sheetlets - one containing 25 frames and the other consisting of 25 personalised designs. Rather like the Royal Mail "Smilers" personalised stamps, the Picture Post personalised stamp kits were sold at a premium although post offices sold booklets containing pre-designed stickers and frames:-

In retrospect, it is not clear to me why the stamps were not supplied with the personal picture printed inside the frame rather than having to be placed in the frame by the customer. I suppose the designer, Steven Spazuk, thought that this represented a form of audience participation. A second issue of Picture Post stamps appeared in 2004 entitled "Write Me Ring Me" and the stamps were indeed provided with the personal design already printed in the frame rather than the customer having to construct their own stamp. The relaunch included the issue of a  "special collector edition" which depicted a maple life provided in 2 different frame designs in the domestic postal rate and issued on 8 October 2004. The 2 frame designs were released in sheets of 20. Attached to the sheet was a "keep-sake souvenir sheet" which contained an enlargement of the design as well as a single example of the stamp. The stamps could also be bought in sheets of 40 without the accompanying souvenir sheet panel. The stamps were again designed by Steven Spacuk as well as Jean-Francois Renaud and lithographed by The Canadian Bank Note Printing Company. 
 In November 2011, six new Picture Post stamps were produced to be used on mail for various "ethnic festivals" - 2 different designs each for Hannukah, Diwali and Eid. Below is depicted one of the sheets of 25 and its attached "keep sake miniature sheet" which celebrated Eid.

Also in November 2011, 3 different designs were released which commemorated the Winnipeg Jets ice hockey team. Finally, of considerable noteworthiness is the issue of 19 July 2003 which was a joint project of Canada Post and the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and which consisted of a sheet of 10 stamps (5 x 2 different designs). The stamps were sold on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships sailing between Canada and Alaska and the passenger's photograph was printed in the frame at the right side of the stamp. To the left of the sheet was a "keep sake souvenir sheet" which consisted of 3 non-postally valid labels which were in the same format as the stamp designs. The cruise company was supplied with 40000 stamps and 10000 were sold by the Canadian Philatelic Centre. The stamps were sold at the International postage rate prevailing at the time of sale (initially 48c). The design was by Geoff Kehring and the stamps were lithographed by Ashton Potter.

Meanwhile, six items apparently from South Sudan are currently being auctioned on E Bay by a vendor in China. These are said to commemorate the first anniversary of South Sudan's independence and include stamps with much higher face values than we have previously seen (SSP5, 10, 20 and 50). Clearly they have thematic appeal (bird and animals) as well as depicting the correct version of the country's coat of arms on the top value. One suspects that are yet another gift to South Sudan from the Chinese government and also, apparently, to certain Chinese citizens who have an access to these stamps. I for one shall hold off trying to obtain these stamps until it becomes clear just what their availability is in South Sudan itself and whether they are finding their way into South Sudan post offices rather than providing a source of income for Chinese citizens who seem to have a strange access to the items.

E bay illustration of new set.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Royal Mail: The Madness Continues & Norfolk Island Diamond Jubilee Issue.

Royal Mail has outlined its programme of new stamps for 2013. The first issue is yet another set, miniature sheet and retail booklet centred around London. Does the stamp design selection committee of Royal Mail not think that Britain exists outside of London? Philatelically, I am tired of London and despite what Dr Johnston said, I am not tired of my philatelic life. On January 2013, six stamps and a miniature sheet consisting of 4 additional designs will commemorate the centenary of the Metropolitan railway which ran between Paddington Station and Farringdon Street and this was the forerunner of the London Underground system that makes so many people's lives a misery every day in these modern times. I can not deny that the designs are excellent, featuring as they do, scenes of the railway through the century of its existence.

Of the 6 designs in the ordinary set, there are 2 x 2nd values, 2 x 1st and 2 x £1.28 which means that Royal Mail is at least keeping its promise to issue more 2nd class values to help reduce the total cost to collectors. The benefit of doing so is that the general public may actually get to use some modern commemoratives on their mail again and, who knows, some may even find them interesting and attractive enough, to want to start collecting stamps. 

A little different from the crowded carriages experienced by
the 21st century commuter!

The miniature sheet is depicted below with one of the stamps from the sheet. Again, rather attractive, as each stamp included in the sheet features posters used in the past to publicise the Underground but the total face value is too high since the stamps are 1st (60p), 77p, 87p and £1.28p (total £3.52p) - no 2nd class stamp used in this production  - why not?

Pleasingly, Royal Mail appears to have also kept its promise to release fewer issues in 2013, the rest of the programme is:-
  1.  21 February         Jane Austin (writer) commemoration
  2.  26 March             Classic British television (50th anniversary of Dr.Who)
  3.  16 April               Great Britons
  4.  9 May                  150th anniversary of the Football League
  5.  30 May                60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
  6.  18 June                Classic locomotives of Northern Ireland
  7.  11 July                 Butterflies
  8.  13 August            British auto legends
  9.  19 September      The Merchant Navy
  10.  10 October           Dinosaurs
  11.  5 November         Christmas
This is clearly a lot better than what has happened in the last few years so let us hope that this is a true turning point away from the previous exploitative attitude towards stamp collectors and let us hope that other Commonwealth postal administrations and philatelic agencies follow Royal Mail's lead. Unfortunately, things do not look too good. As well as the above listed commemoratives Royal Mail will issue 3 Post and Go sets on the theme of "pond life' and it looks as though the now very popular Post and Go stamps are a new area that Royal Mail has identified for exploitation. After the deluge of such stamps produced at the recent Autumn Stampex stamp exhibition in London (detailed in the previous blog), there are now to be further such stamps produced, with extremely limited availability, from machines to be set up at the 94th Philatelic Congress in Perth, Scotlandwhich is being held between the 19th and 21st of October 2012. The machines will deliver the Union Jack and Machin head Post and Go stamps with overprints applied which reads in 2 lines "PERTH 2012 19-21 OCTOBER". Thus the new issue madness continues, it is always possible to make cosmetic changes to a stamp programme but continue to find new ways to extract money from collectors. A pity, the "Post and Go" stamps were a real area of interest for collectors but in recent days Royal Mail has completely ruined them as a special collecting area of items that really fulfilled a genuine postal need which made use of the latest technology. Once more, mad Greed has won out.

Norfolk Island released its issue to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II on 20 August 2012 in the form of a miniature sheet containing 3 stamps centred around the Jubilee celebrations on the island with a photograph of the Jubilee beacon in the large margin. An interesting issue particularly as the lighting of beacons right around The Commonwealth was one of the important events which linked the territories participating in celebration of the Queen's notable anniversary.

Below, I show the detailed designs of Singapore's "Giant pandas" set which was issued on 6 September 2012. There are 3 gummed stamps and 1 self-adhesive stamp which was sold in booklets of 10 x 50c. They were designed by Edward Chen Zhi Chi and Eric Kong and printed in lithography by Secura Singapore. Very attractive and very collectable.

On 16 September  2012, Ascension issued a set of of 6 stamps, including 2 very strange tiny stamps to commemorate the centenary of the Shackleton-Rowett expedition. These are also very interesting and attractive.

The Gambia issued a sheetlet of 3 stamps and a miniature sheet which depict "Wild cats of Africa". Some of the art does not look terribly good, especially the stamp at the right of the sheetlet, on the other hand the illustrations of the lion and the leopard in the margins of the sheets look altogether more convincing.

Continuing the animal theme, Ghana recently issued a sheetlet of 5 stamps depicting primates - another interesting issue but as the species illustrated are not all found in Ghana (the orang utan on the 2nd stamp from the right is not even found in Africa), I shall not be adding it to my collection. Surely the designer could have found 5 native Ghanaian species to illustrate and thus make the issue relevant to Ghana rather than just lazily showing a collection of randomly selected monkeys and apes.

Finally, a stamp issue of great local relevance was released on 8 August 2012 by Trinidad And Tobago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the achievement of national independence from The United Kingdom. The set comprises 4 stamps and is rather more exuberant than the rather dull pair of stamps recently issued by Jamaica to commemorate its independence (see previous blog). All stamps have a $1.00 face value.

One of the designs is interesting in that it depicts the 1st Governor-General of Trinidad And Tobago, Sir Solomon Hochoy, and the first prime minister, Dr. Eric Williams:-
and another shows the colonial flag badge used from 1958 to 62 side-by-side with the post-Independence coat of arms:-